How dangerous are High Sierra conditions right now? Even experienced hikers say ‘stay out’

High-elevation hiking and backpacking in early summer typically requires a tolerance for snow and swollen creeks. Except conditions this year in the Sierra Nevada, with last winter’s giant snowpack starting to melt, are anything but typical. They’re treacherous and potentially deadly – even for the most experienced and best equipped wilderness travelers.

“In a normal year going out in mid-June would still be challenging,” said Jack Haskel, trail information specialist for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. “This has not been a normal year at all. It has been challenging, dangerous and there have been a lot of serious incidents that are deeply concerning.”

Haskel’s primary source of concern is this year’s class of PCT thru-hikers, the 3,000 or more hardy souls attempting to complete the 2,650-mile trek from Mexico to Canada in one push.

A snowpack measuring 164 percent of average in the Southern Sierra already has been responsible for a couple of fatalities, both along the PCT and on Mount Whitney, and several near misses. At a time when backcountry rangers in the High Sierra are still being mobilized – they’re not immune to the conditions, either – there will almost certainly be more.

Heavy-snow years like this one require a skill set above and beyond normal backpacking. That’s especially true if you plan to venture across avalanche-prone slopes or surmount 12,000- and 13,000-foot passes. But an even greater danger lurks in the canyons and valleys: creek crossings.

Creeks and streams that will be mere trickles by late summer are currently raging torrents fed by snowmelt. Crossing them requires a great deal of experience and nerve. Some are simply impassable.

Read full story…

 

Similar Posts: